She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

She’s Come Undone was suggested to me from a fellow-avid-reader acquaintance of mine. Having just read a few of Lambs’ books, he was high on her recommendation list. I’d looked at this book before but for whatever reason always put it back, even despite it being on Oprah’s Book Club list.

I struggle to talk about this book tactfully. When I had brought it up with my roommate that I was reading She’s Come Undone, she gave me a look of knowing hesitation and said a number of people had told her to avoid it. Another friend who’d read it said she’d cried a lot during it. I like to read because I like to momentarily dive in to someone else’s life. A quarter of the way through this book made me want to dive into the pavement.

From witnessing her father beating her mother, to being raped at 13 and going through her teens and early twenties as a woman weighing in at over 200 pounds; Dolores has seen the cruelest life has to offer. Compound that with the loss of her mom to a tragic death before heading off to college and another near sexual assault, you honestly can’t blame Dolores for attempting suicide in the ocean. Heavy D’s failed suicide attempt gets her institutionalized where she (and the reader) is given new life. But the sad story continues to follow Dolores right up to page 400 where the book thankfully takes a new shape.

To Lamb’s credit you really can’t tell how this story is going to end. But for 400 pages I ventured into Dolores’ horrid situation of a life and didn’t enjoy much of it. Now it is not my intention to come here and slam someone else’s work; I can fully appreciate that books are a story of someone’s telling and take a great deal of time, sweat and tears. But if I’m going to look at content only, I cannot call this a page-turner and wouldn’t refer it to a friend.

Having said that, I can say that Lamb did a fantastic job of not only narrating a female voice but of also narrating one through so many obstacles mostly only known to women. For that, I tip my hat to Mr. Lamb.

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Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

In theory this book should have been great. It had all the makings of an interesting story: a love component rife with complications, was based on true events and ended surprisingly; yet this novel was still just “ok.” I could never quite get into it, was never excited about reading it. Surprising more so since it made it into Heather’s group of guaranteed reads.

Gruen gets points for originality, this story is truly unique and her descriptive voice is vivid. She just failed to get me excited about the story and its characters. As always I encourage everybody to be their own judge, but I know I’m not totally alone in this thought as two friends of mine have read it and had very similar reactions. Regretfully, I have yet to find anyone that raves about this book…

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Lost Girls and Love Hotels by Catherine Hanrahan

Having just graduated from a yearlong program and a month away from my two-month unpaid internship, I was on the lookout to borrow some books. I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t frequent the library as often as someone like me should (I read a lot). In fact I can’t remember the last time I’ve been… Lucky for me, my roommate has an entire wall of books she’s read and just won’t make the conversion to e-reading. (I on the other hand am a HUGE fan of it – less clutter).

I found Lost Girls and Love Hotels among the living room stacks. With a melancholy tone this book reads like a memoir. In an attempt to run from her home-life situation, main character and U.S. native Margaret flees to Tokyo in hopes for some sort of improvement. But as many travellers find, Margaret can’t put kilometers between her and her thoughts. Brief hope and distraction comes in the form of Kazu, an attractive Japanese gangster that takes her to hotels designed to encourage secret affairs. This book gives you a glimpse into the shady and lonely sides of expat life and what it would be like to be able to disappear if you were so inclined.

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Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat

I didn’t really want to read this book. I scored it for seven bucks on a discount table but it sat in my closet for over a year before I reluctantly picked it up. I feared reading this book for being brought to the lowest of the low. I mean a true-life story about a girl imprisoned in her teens as a political prisoner during the Islamic Revolution? How could this book take me anywhere but down?

I stand shamefully corrected.

At age 16 Marina Nemat is arrested as a political prisoner and subject to torture in the notorious prison Evin. Downer. But although Nemat’s experience starts off raw and cruel, it later morphs into a story about but her time inside and an unlikely relationship with a prison guard. The story goes to such an unexpected place you’ll conclude that Nemat may just be the luckiest unlucky person that ever lived. Other surprises: Nemat’s a Christian. Her struggle with the enforcement of Muslim customs in Evin and on the streets of Iran is relatable. This book is a great read and full of unexpected turns that will keep you reading until the wee hours of the night.

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